REVIEW: Dell XPS 11 2-in-1 Ultrabook

The thinnest, lightest and most compact 2-in-1 Ultrabook to include a Quad HD display, the Dell XPS 11 is about as sexy as mobile computing currently gets. It’s not without its faults and limitations, but the XPS 11 is a very good device for staying connected, creating, sharing and accessing content on the move from within a secure Windows 8 environment.

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DELL XPS 11

  1. The XPS 11 is available in two models. Each comes with a 4th Generation Intel Core i5 4210Y processor, 4GB RAM (DDR3 1,600MHz), Intel HD Graphics 4200, 11.6-inch LED backlit touch display with a QHD resolution, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, WiDi 3.0, 40WHr battery, and Windows 8.1 (64-bit). Adding an extra £100 (ex. VAT) to the base model (£699 ex. VAT) doubles the mSATA SSD storage to 256GB.
  2. Rather than having to choose between an Ultrabook or a laptop for your trip, the XPS is both. Offering a tablet-first design with laptop functionality for added practicality, it easily transitions from tablet to laptop with a 360-degree rotating hinge design similar to that of the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and a solid surface backlit touch keyboard that allows you to get on with proper work. While innovative, the non-moving membrane keyboard is really difficult to get used to and won’t suit touch typists.
  3. The membrane keyboard does have a major design advantage, however. As the XPS 11 can be used in four operating modes – laptop, tablet, tent and stand – systems such as the Lenovo Yoga have the disadvantage of having physical keys resting on the work surface in stand mode or your fingers when in tablet mode. This ‘issue’ isn’t a problem with the XPS 11 thanks to the ‘flat’ membrane keyboard.
  4. The XPS 11 is beautifully built for frequent travelling. Measuring 300 x 201 x 15mm and weighing just 1.13kg, the Ultrabook is the epitome of lightweight Windows-based computing. Beauty isn’t only skin deep either, as the XPS 11 sports a tough machined aluminium and carbon fibre chassis (a welcome change to the aluminium construction of Apple’s MacBook Air 11-inch), edge-to-edge Corning Gorilla Glass NBT, and a silicone palmrest that creates a more comfortable typing experience compared to plastic.
  5. Considering the diminutive size of the machine, connectivity is good and includes a widescreen HD webcam with dual array digital microphones, full-size USB 3.0 with PowerShare (x2), HDMI, headset jack, 3-in-1 media card reader (SD, SDIO, SDXC) and a Noble lock. Noticeable omissions include Thunderbolt and DisplayPort.
  6. A real highlight of the XPS 11 is its Quad HD (2560 x 1440) display, which is not only much higher than 1080p HD but has 253 pixels-per-inch (PPI) – higher than the 227 PPI in Apple’s MacBook Pro 13-inch (2013). The upside is that you have a lot of workspace and can view 1080p videos online, but the downside is that some non Windows 8-compliant program menus can look tiny. Overall it offers a bright, crisp viewing experience with rich colour consistency.
  7. The thin profile and high-resolution screen comes at a price of battery life. The XPS 11 is good for just under 6 hours, which is better than Sony’s Tap 11 and Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro, but is a long way behind Apple’s MacBook Air 11-inch which runs for 10 hours or even Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 which should operate for around 9 hours.
  8. Dell’s support is pretty hard to beat. “My Dell”, previously called Dell Support Center, is an easy-to-use support tool that consolidates the information you need about the XPS 11. Preinstalled on all new Dell devices, the tool gives advice and alerts to let you know about issues before they happen and tools to fix issues if they arise. It also offers flexible, automated backup and recovery through Dell Backup and Recovery to ensure that your important documents, pictures and media files remain safe.
  9. The XPS is already a touch on the expensive side, but that doesn’t stop you from accessorising the tablet with a range of exclusive accessories like the XPS leather protective sleeve (£39.99 ex. VAT), wireless mouse (£20.79 ex. VAT) and USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station (£131.99 ex. VAT). The Dock is particularly neat as it offers dual video ports for two-monitor use.
  10. Used primarily as a Windows 8 tablet PC with occasional typing, the XPS 11 leads the pack in the “2-in-1” category. And while there are much more powerful Ultrabooks that have more practical keyboards and better battery life, the XPS is an attractive option for adding tablet PC functionality to your work/lifestyle.
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SUMMARY
  • Super stylish form factor
  • Exceptionally well built
  • Superb HD display
  • HDMI port
  • Full Windows 8.1 environment
  • Touch sluggish
  • Middling battery life
  • Menus can be too small
  • Uncomfortable keyboard
  • Smudge magnet